An important early example of a fully illustrated Chronique universelle
21 Chronique anonyme universelleParchment scroll, illuminated by the Master of Étienne Sauderat. France, Paris?, c. 1450 with additions after 1461 and corrections after 1467.
18.572 metres (!) x c.555 mm. Complete: 29 membranes (the final 5 are later additions) pasted together with approximately 20 mm overlap. Signatures preserved on several versos, in Roman numerals. – Written space varying from one to 5 columns in a black Cursiva Formata (Bastarda) on a red ruling, prickings preserved in both margins. – Lines of descent and name roundels in red, paragraph marks of blue with red penwork, two- and three-line initials alternately of blue or burnished gold with penwork of red or black respectively. – Large opening initial of gold against a blue ground with pink infill and with a right-angle border made up of sprays of gold ivyleaves on hairline stems, acanthus, fruit and flowers, final section with a large blue initial on a red monochrome-patterned ground, 65 roundels with miniatures. – Excellent condition, some creasing to first membrane, very little rubbing or wear, a few parchment repairs.
PROVENANCE: 1. Possibly owned by the French royal family in the 18th century, since the scroll is said to have been looted from the Garde-Meuble in Paris in 1792. 2. George Temple Nugent Grenville, marquis of Buckingham, in the library he founded in Stowe (sold by Thomas Astle). His sale at Sotheby’s, 11 June 1849, lot 411. 3. Bertram, Earl of Ashburnham (1797-1878). His sale at Sotheby’s, 10 June 1901, lot 627. 4.Théophile Belin.
TEXT: Anonymous universal chronicle detailing history from the Creation to the French King Charles VI, with a chronicle of the reign of Charles VII and a portrait of Louis XI. The scroll is formatted as a timeline in parallel columns, beginning at Genesis. Once the text branches off to include Ancient Greece and Rome, the biblical narrative continues down the left column while pagan history is recounted at the right. After the completion of the New Testament, the left column continues with the history of the papacy down to Urban VI in 1378. After the destruction of Troy and the flight of its survivors to Europe, the right column branches into three, giving from left to right the Roman and then the Holy Roman Empire, the Merovingian, Carolingian, Capetian and Valois kings of France, and the ancient kings of Britain followed by the Anglo-Saxon and Norman kings of England. The line of French kings runs from Pharamond to Clovis and Charlemagne, concluding originally with Charles VI (r. 1380-1422). Shortly after the death of his son Charles VII (1422-61), a new scribe added a detailed chronicle of the reign of Charles VII and a portrait of Louis XI, crowned in 1461. This implies that the scroll was originally produced during the reign of Charles VII, while the additions date from the early reign of Louis XI. The Chronique universelle, a supplied title, was a very popular text. However, they conclude with several different entries. The long Charles VI chronicle preserved here is uncommon and is usually found in copies that were probably produced during the reign of Charles VII. There are only two copies with the same ending (Orléans, Bibl. mun., ms. 470 and Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, ms. 176), and three further copies that include the annals of Charles VII (Paris,BN, n.a. fr. 1493; Leeds, University Library, Brotherton Collection, ms. 100 and Rouen, Bibl.mun., ms. 1137).
ILLUMINATION: Twelve roundels from the Creation to the Toil of Adam and Eve – Noah building the Ark – Abraham sacrificing Isaac – Tower of Babel – Joshua, the first Worthy – King David – Destruction of Troy – Four roundels each with a ship containing a warrior fleeing from Troy: Aeneas, Priam,Turnus and Helenus – Destruction of Samaria – Brut killing giants – King Zedechias – Hewing of Nebuchadnezzar – Foundation of Sicambria – Foundation of Rome – Prophesy of Daniel/Death of Balthazar – Foundation of Lutece – Rape of the Sabinians – Queen Vashti banished – Alexander of Macedonia – Judah Maccabee – Nativity of Christ – Infant Christ with instruments of the Passion – Murder of Julius Caesar – Last Supper – Foundation of London – Priant leading his troops – King Bucie of Britain annointing two bishops – French army battling the Romans – Conain Meriadoc – King Pharamond – Baptism of Clovis – Anglist of Britanny – Dagobert founding St Denis – Defeat of Mordred by King Arthur – Destruction of England – King Pepin – Pope Gregory the Great – William the Conqueror – Hugh Capet – Godfrey of Bouillon on board a ship – St Charlemagne as emperor – Godfrey of Bouillon takes Jerusalem – St Louis – Emperor Berenger I – King Edward I – Philip of Valois VI – John II – Charles V – Charles VI – Charles VII – Louis XI. The full complement of 65 miniatures preserves the standard cycle found in other copies of the Chronique, with the exception of the Annunciation of the Passion which is a rare iconographic treatment found only in four other copies that belong together also on the grounds of their text versions. One of them (Boston, Public Library, ms. Pb Med 32) is closely related to our manuscript in style, content and format. The style of painting is close to the Master of Étienne Sauderat. Characteristics of his idiom include the specific rendering of the ground coloured in a striking shade of yellow and covered with small decorative trees. Moreover his palette includes an unusual tint of turquoise used for the water.The artist is named after the Livre de la propriété des choses in Amiens (Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 399) written in 1447 by Étienne Sauderat.Traditionally his style is located to northern France, while recent research has found that the Master of Étienne Sauderat was also active in Paris. The final roundel depicting Louis XI is close in style to the Master of the Échevinage de Rouen whose style dominated Rouennais illumination in the third quarter of the 15th century.
LITERATURE: Sales cat. Sotheby’s, 11 June 1849, lot 411; sales cat. Sotheby’s, 10 June 1901, lot 627. König 1991, pp. 50-53, pl. 1; Fossier 1980-81, pp. 163-183; Hurel 1992, pp. 29-40; Hurel 1994, pp. 303-314; Hurel 1996, pp. 125-135; Davis 2006, pp. 43-49. Our description is largely based on an unpublished paper by Lisa Fagin Davis.